"Who is that?" Madeline says.
"New guy," Paris replies, sure to keep her voice flat. Encouraging Madeline or Louise with the force that is inflection is almost never a good idea.
"New babe," Louise corrects, sucking on the tip of her pen. Sometimes being around Louise makes it feel depressingly like Paris has accidentally stepped into a porno. The uniforms don't help.
"Oh, I'm sorry." Paris rolls her eyes. "Did I say 'guy'? Pardon my blasphemy. I meant 'babe.'"
"You sure did," Madeline purrs.
New Guy is what would happen if you carved a Keatsian Backstreet Boy out of marble, Pygmalion-style. He saunters by like he thinks he's walking in slow motion to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack, keeping his gaze trained right in front of him. His eyes are the most stupidly vivid shade of topaz imaginable. It's an affront to November-born human beings worldwide.
"Nice contacts, Gold Steel," Paris calls out.
Gold Steel pauses for just a second before making the wise decision not to cross her, and keeps on walkin'. So at least he's not a total loss in terms of mental function.
"His name is Edward Cullen," Madeline reports, like his name is Josh Hartnett. "Word is he just moved here from Alaska."
"Ooh, I bet he needs somebody to warm him up," Louise coos.
"Get in line," Madeline orders.
Sometimes Paris wonders what it would be like to have friends who you actually had anything in common with at all.
"Can you even begin to imagine how long it must take him to get his hair like that?" she says. It's a valid question. She's never seen more precise Oh, This, I Just Rolled Out Of Bedhead in her entire life, and this is as somebody who's known Tristan for ages.
Her bestest pals completely fail to recognize the inherent potential for mockery. Of course.
The same can't be said for the inherent potential for sluttitude.
"Makes you just want to mess it all up," Louise says deviously.
"Or shave it all off," says Paris.
This time it's not just Madeline and Louise. Every girl at Chilton is basically swooning her ass off over this Edward Cullen idiot. And to no avail: he never really looks directly at anyone. Just stares at his desk, or off into space, with an expression that basically screams, 'HEATHCLIFF, TEACH ME HOW TO LIVE.' It's appropriate, because Mr. Medina is lecturing about Wuthering Heights.
No one is paying attention. Everyone keeps sneaking glances Edward-ward. Even the guys are clearly sizing up the competition. (Or, who knows, maybe just getting lost in that dreamy, artful rat's nest of hair.)
Wait. Scratch that.
One person is scribbling down diligent notes.
In fact, Rory still looks like she has a level head on her shoulders – as level as a living, breathing Disney princess's can ever be, anyway – which is the only reason Paris talks to her when the bell rings. Desperate times call for slumming it with Pollyanna.
"So, what do you think, Gilmore?" she demands. "Isn't he dreamy? Aren't you just seconds from pledging your troth?"
"Nah, I think I'll keep my troth to myself," Rory replies. She looks over at Edward, and Paris just waits for sparks to fly, stars to fall, Puccini to fill the air. Going by levels of sheer objective attractiveness, Rory is the obvious match for their new dreamboat. She's the only pretty girl at this school who manages 'cute' while totally escaping 'extra in a Britney Spears music video' territory. Her skin kind of makes Paris get what Elizabeth Bathory was going for.
But Rory wrinkles her nose and whispers jokily, "How much time do you think he spends getting his hair just like that?"
Paris doesn't smile, for the record.
So maybe Paris should have seen it coming, that the girl ol' Topaz Eyes chooses to bestow his amber gaze upon is none other than Rory.
They're in the cafeteria, and Rory is sitting at the end of a table all on her lonesome with Wuthering Heightsin front of her and her headphones on, sipping a Hansen's soda daintily through a straw. When Edward walks in, carrying naught but a red delicious apple, everyone's eyes go right to him. Well, everyone's but Rory's. She's happily drinking in strawberry kiwi carbonation and Emily Bronte prose.
She never sees it coming.
Edward ambles on over to her, looms there all fine-of-face and dumb-of-hair, and says something that Paris can't hear over all the cafeteria chatter. Rory looks up, all sweet wide-eyed surprise.
"Ooh, Paris, you jealous?" Madeline says, reminding Paris suddenly and unpleasantly of the fact of her existence.
"Who isn't?" says Louise. "Of course he went for her. Seriously, what is it about Rory Gilmore?"
"People want what they can't have," Paris answers absently, watching Edward toss the apple from one hand to another as he babbles on. Because God, yes, that's completely impressive, if you happen to be a trained monkey. Rory is going to swoon out of her chair any second now.
She looks back over at Madeline and Louise. They're both staring at her with vacant 'what the hell?' expressions.
"Because she has that boyfriend," Paris says impatiently. She starts tearing her napkin into pieces without quite meaning to. "The lunkhead she brought to the dance. I'm sure they're practically engaged; just think of the small town courtship rituals they'vebeen partaking in all these months. Couples' potato sack races. His-and-hers bobbing for apples. I'm sure it's all very Thomas Hardy meets Baby-Sitters Club. Love in the time of hay bales. Edward Cullen and his contact lenses don't stand a chance."
"You've thought about this a lot," Madeline says warily, like she's afraid she's going to get bitten.
"I think about everything a lot," Paris snaps. "Did you miss the memo on the whole I'm-brilliant thing? Is this news just getting to you now?"
"Eesh," says Louise.
"I saw Cullen hanging around your lunch table," Paris says that afternoon, coming up to Rory as she shoves her books into her backpack. "What was that all about?"
"He wanted to talk about Wuthering Heights," Rory replies, making a face. She slams her locker shut and slings her backpack over one shoulder; they start down the hall together. "I didn't know teenage boys did that."
"Teenage boys will do a lot to get into your pants."
"Okay, a) ew, and b) if that ishis ulterior motive, which I don't think it is because he used the word 'countenance', then he's barking up the wrong tree. A tree who's wearing a skirt, not pants, by the way."
"Are you kidding me? Do you really think he's just busting out nineteenth century word choice for the good wholesome fun of it? Austen is his wingman. Those are the tactics of a conniving Lothario who desperately wants to score, and will play the Mr. Darcy card to do it."
Rory smiles at her, this sweet little aw-you're-silly grin that is totally annoying. "Did you just say 'Lothario'?"
"Shut up," Paris orders. "I'm trying to preserve you from being bamboozled out of your virtue here, Mary."
"Gee, thanks," Rory says, bristling a little at the nickname. "And – not that I get why you are in the first place, but … you don't have to worry about any bamboozling."
"Because you have that boyfriend," Paris tests. She's not entirely sure why it's a test, but the fact remains.
Rory blushes a little. It's so positively cute it makes Paris's stomach twist up. "Well, yeah, that's part of it, of course. I'm not about to go behind Dean's back with a guy wearing topaz contact lenses. But there's also the part where I totally don't agree with his stance on Wuthering Heights."
"Oh?" Paris says, intrigued in spite of herself.
"He kept going on and on about unconditional love as this great redeeming quality in two people who were otherwise completely monstrous."
"Barf," Paris says.
"Exactly," Rory agrees. "When I first read Wuthering Heights when I was nine—"
"Of course you were nine," Paris grumbles, and suddenly feels like an eleven year old failure.
"—my mom pitched it as the greatest horror story ever told. And that Kate Bush song definitely helped to back up her stance."
Paris considers her. "You're suspiciously un-delusional for someone raised in Avonlea."
"You're suspiciously good at off-the-cuff Anne of Green Gables references," Rory counters, "considering you're, you know, evil."
And then Paris realizes that they're at the front door already.
"Well," she says awkwardly. "Bye."
"Bye," Rory says, not too smooth herself, and lifts her hand in a little wave.
They go their separate ways.
Rory isn't in first period the next morning. Neither is Edward Cullen.
Odds are, Rory just tripped over a cornucopia (which Stars Hollow no doubt has in abundance, all over the place, no matter what time of year it is), and Edward Cullen got mauled by a barrage of fangirls, and that's why they're both not here.
Of course, Madeline and Louise aren't big on odds.
"Maybe they eloped," Madeline speculates.
"Lucky bitch," says Louise.
"Hey!" Paris – okay, yells.
Madeline and Louise stare at her like she's nuts.
"Language," Paris explains, reminding herself to breathe. "Why don't you just send the patriarchy a fruit basket and a thank-you note that says 'hey, boys, muchas gracias for all the help pitting us against each other to keep us in a permanent state of subjugation to your phallocentric mockery of a society; p.s. Enjoy the mangos'?"
"Because I don't think that would fit in a thank-you note," Louise frowns.
"You hate Rory," Madeline reminds her. "No one is more against Rory than you."
"Exactly. I hate Rory. Rory is mine."
Madeline and Louise arch zealously overplucked eyebrows at her in unison.
"To destroy," Paris adds. It really should go without saying, but.
Paris is on her way to third period when suddenly, someone's grabbing her arm and pulling her into a supply closet. It's Rory, looking notably more disheveled than usual. Paris definitely has never had any sort of dream even remotely resembling this moment.
"This is going to sound weird," Rory says, once the door is shut and it's just them and an assortment of cleaning products.
"You and Edward Cullen are eloping," Paris says, dread flooding through her.
"What? No! 'Weird,' not 'Let me tell you about my Lifetime movie-level bad life decision.'"
"Okay," Paris says, and it's not like she's relieved or anything. "What's up?"
"So I was late this morning, because Mom and I got a little too involved in a crappy VHS tape marathon of The Brady Brides last night—"
"As so many so often do," Paris says dryly.
"—and I missed my bus so she let me take the Jeep. Now, the last time I missed the bus and she let me take the Jeep, I got hit by a deer. Needless to say, I was on the lookout for deer in a big way. But apparently the universe just wantsme and deer to be locked in an eternal battle, because I was in pretty much the exact same spot as last time, when all of a sudden—"
"Deer?" Paris surmises.
"Deer," Rory says. "And I was halfway to resigning myself to a lifetime of deer-shaped indentations all over my mom's car, but then—" She stops, looking suddenly uncertain. "You know I'm not crazy, right?"
"No," Paris says.
Rory huffs. "Okay, fine. Since you're going to have me committed to a psych ward anyway, I might as well just tell you: Edward Cullen showed up out of nowhere, and wrestled the deer away."
"He wrestled the deer," Paris repeats flatly, after about ten seconds of silence.
"He was a regular deer wrestler," Rory confirms, grave. "And that's not the weirdest part."
"Oh. He was also – sparkling."
"With virile enthusiasm?"
"No, with sparkles. All over his skin. We are talking an I-just-showered-in-the-world's-most-powerful-body-glitter situation."
Paris stares at her. Then she stares at a mop instead, because Rory is all blue eyes and earnestness and confusion, and way too good at making even the stupidest things seem true.
"You're messing with me," Paris tells the mop. "This is your ridiculously convoluted scheme to bring me down."
"Paris, how many times do I have to tell you that I don't want to bring you down? And if I do happen to leave you in the dust, academically speaking, it will be because – because I work hard, and I earned it. Not because I made up an insane story about sparkly deer-wrestlers to throw you off your game."
"Then why are you telling this to me? We're not friends."
"No, we're not friends," Rory agrees, crossing her arms in front of her chest, "but you're the closest thing I've got here, okay?"
Paris is briefly, ridiculously tempted to say Right back atcha, even though of course it's not true. She's known most of these people her whole life. Rory's just the new girl.
"Show me the sparkles and I'll believe you," Paris says stiffly.
Since Edward is nowhere to be found today, they decide the best way to catch him at his alleged sparkling is to return of the scene of the crime. Rory will park, get out, and walk around the woods, under the guise of being super concerned about the poor wrestled deer. ("Oh, come on, Paris, he's not going to buy that! No one's that sweet!" "Oh really? What did you do the last time you hit a deer?" "... Shut up.") Paris will watch from the back of the car.
Unfortunately, this involves hanging out in the back of the car.
"Why do you have an axe and a ten pound bag of Swedish Fish back here?" Paris asks.
"For survival situations," Rory chirps. "My mom likes to travel prepared."
"Great," Paris says. "These will come in so handy."
Paris watches from the rear window while Rory wanders tentatively toward the trees. "Deer? Oh deer? I really, really hope you're … okay, and out here wandering around, and not hurt or anything—"
"If you were smart," come the velvety tones of Edward Cullen, "you'd stay away from me."
"Oh!" Rory says. "Uh, hey there, Edward. I was just out looking for … deer. Fancy seeing you here. Boy, you're looking extra sparkly today."
"THIS IS THE SKIN OF A KILLER, RORY," Edward shouts.
Paris daintily pops a Swedish Fish into her mouth with one hand, clutches the axe in the other (it's good to be prepared), and watches the show go down.
"So," Rory says later, "um. Vampire."
"A vampire who sparkles, subsists on woodland creatures, and decides the best use of immortality is to go to high school over and over again," Paris scowls. "And I thought Angel was lame. Not to mention that Captain Sparkle's broody wooing tactics leave something to be desired."
"'Your scent is like a drug to me,'" Rory quotes forlornly.
"How's Farm Boy going to compete with that love magic?"
"You get that Dean doesn't live on a farm, right?"
"Not the point, Gilmore."
"So should we like … stake him or something? He did seem pretty into the idea of, you know, drinking my blood."
"Or escorting you to the next barn dance that comes your way."
"Yep," Rory says, "we should definitely stake him."
"Edward Cullen tried to break into my bedroom last night," Rory tells her in class the next morning.
This whole thing suddenly becomes way less funny. If it ever was funny to start with.
"I mean, it was okay," Rory adds quickly, off Paris's expression. "Our next door neighbors were up, and Babette smashed a garden gnome over his head."
"Well, in that case," Paris says sarcastically.
"Still," Rory says, "kinda wishing Buffy would show up right now."
Paris isn't Buffy, obviously – more Cordelia Chase minus the vapid – but that doesn't mean she isn't qualified to slay things.
Quite the contrary.
She's been slaying the self-esteem of idiots stupid enough to get in her way for years.
"Hey, Sparkle Motion," she calls when she spots Edward strolling by in the rapidly emptying hallway. The bell rang already, and she'll be tardy – something that has never happened before, and that basically goes against the most fundamental rules of the universe. But oh well. She'll deal with that later. She's on a mission.
Edward fixes his stupid topaz eyes on her. She never wants to even think the word 'topaz' again once she's through with this creep. "Hello – Paris, was it?"
"Cut the courtesy, Emily Post. Let's talk about Rory."
"What about Rory?" His voice curls around Rory's name, musically and grossly, like he owns the rights to it.
"Oh, I dunno, maybe the fact that you're very gallantly stalking her, and she's over it."
"Is she really?"
"Go on. Take a minute. Just try to wrap your brain around it. I know it must be all but unfathomable to you, that a girl like Rory doesn't get all a-swoon over your feats of gladiatorial triumph over ruminant mammals, or your ability to casually drop lines of Wuthering Heights into conversation, or your exotic glittery immortality. But alas, Anne Rice Reject, it's the truth. Rory's just not that into you, and that means you're going to leave her alone. Got it?"
Edward gives a low, breathy chuckle and looks at her from beneath ridiculously thick lashes. It's like the world's worst mascara commercial. "You really don't want to get on my bad side."
There is not enough 'OH, PLEASE' in the world.
"Oh really?" Paris demands. "What will you do? Drown me in hair gel? Oversimplify the Brontes until you have me begging to just be put out of my misery already? Go on, Venison Boy. Take your best shot. Rory Gilmore is mynemesis and the only person who gets to mess with her is me. Got it, super sniffer?"
She expects another sparkly vampire threat, and it's almost disappointing when his expression softens instead.
"Perhaps," he says, sounding very Masterpiece Theatre, "you should tell her what's in your heart."
The heart in question stills. "What do you mean?"
"Yours still beats. You may be a monster, but there's hope for you. Some of us would do anything for that chance."
For a split-second, just a split-second, it's like her whole existence has been taken apart and pieced back together inside of those stupid, lilting words.
Then she remembers that part where she's Paris damn Geller. "You've so never even touched a girl in your life, have you, Nicholas Sparks?"
"What?" Edward yelps. "Absolutely I have. Many girls."
Edward Cullen moves back to Alaska. Chilton's female population goes into mourning. If the past several years hadn't given her the utmost faith in Madeline and Louise's ability to move on to the next hottie, Paris would be a little worried they might throw themselves onto a funeral pyre like Dido. Or inflict "Here With Me" upon the world like Dido.
"How's the heartbreak treating you?" she asks Rory, after a pop quiz in Medina's class.
"I won't be wandering the moors anytime soon," Rory replies cheerfully.
"Shame," Paris drawls.
Rory stops at her locker. Paris watches her fingers as she turns the dial, and tells herself it's just because having Rory's locker combo on mental file might come in handy someday. Know your enemy, and all of that.
"You're my nemesis," Paris says.
"Um," Rory says. "Thanks?"
"I just thought you should know," Paris adds, and is immediately overwhelmed by the desire to flee. She doesn't care where. She's not picky. Down the hall will do just fine.
She's taken five steps when Rory's voice turns her around. "Paris?"
"Yes?" She doesn't mean to sound so eager. She hopes it slips by unnoticed.
Rory smiles, just slightly. "Right back atcha."
[The following is an excerpt from Edward Cullen's tremendously manly Feelings Journal—]
Thwarted again! Goodbye, Chilton. Alas, dear diary, as Nicholas Sparks once said, the course of true love never did run smooth. How could I have known that the delectably angelic Rory Gilmore had already won the heart of a dark and formidable creature? I only hope that the blonde shrew finds redemption through the love of her "nemesis." (All's fair in love and war! Another clever Sparks truism.) And I must confess, I do not know if Rory was the one for me. For one thing, she keeps the company of truly vicious folk who bash garden gnomes over one's head at the slightest provocation. Romeo certainly never had to deal with such indignities! For another, her opinions on Wuthering Heights were rather troubling. Yes, Cathy and Heathcliff are oft driven into an abyss of darkness for love, but one could never in good conscience call them "big jerks," could they? I shudder at the thought.
Still, I must confess, she has left a craving in me for solitary bookish brunettes that I fear shall never be abated. OH! Will I live in this frustrated agony for all of my endless days?
But I cannot trouble myself with such dark thoughts now, for I am off to the cinema to see Kate & Leopold with Alice and Esme. Delightful! Even for me, life has its moments of sunshine. (Sparks again.) More later, diary.